A lot has been said about counteroffers. Some say it’s a knee-jerk reaction: a mechanical and reckless response to a top employee’s resignation that a number of companies are guilty of. Employees, on the other hand, are often warned never to take a counteroffer, lest they fall victim to the ultimate kiss of death for their careers. Accepting a counteroffer means accepting the stigma that comes with it; once you’re identified as the one who wants to leave, you become the scapegoat whenever things go out of whack.

But despite all the views against it, counteroffers remain a thing in many companies. Some employers and HR teams choose to stick with counteroffer policies that they’ve had from the very start. To them, little negotiations wouldn’t hurt if an employee’s really worth it. All it takes is a respectful, realistic and well-planned bargain.

As HR leaders, we sit at the forefront of deciding whether to adopt or maintain a counteroffer policy in our companies. In making such a big decision, numbers can come to our rescue. You’ll know what other companies in your industry think about counteroffers by looking at survey results.

Brightwater, a recruitment consultancy firm based in Ireland, conducted a survey last year on the subject. 362 employers and 738 employees, mostly in IT and finance (industries where counteroffers had been found to be most prevalent), participated in the said survey. Here’s a glimpse at the survey’s results.

Employers: We don’t believe in counteroffers, but we resort to them anyway.

Majority (44%) of employers said they don’t believe giving counteroffers is a good thing, but still think it’s needed. 42% see neither its benefits nor necessity. Only 12.4% regard using counteroffers as an acceptable option.

Despite these, the survey revealed that 50.7% of the employer respondents said that they give counteroffers. 71.9% of them don’t have a policy against counter-offering.

82.7% of employers admitted that they actively sought replacements of workers who had accepted their counteroffers. 71.6% trust their staff less after being put in a position to negotiate.

And although more than half of them held onto the practice, 67.8% of the employer respondents said that counteroffers could cause internal problems with staff members other than the one who got the counteroffer. This backs up the argument that counteroffers foster loyalty issues and resentment among teams. Word gets around, and people may end up believing that they, too, should try to quit in order to score a raise or a promotion. The employers’ reputation, ability to lead, and willingness to appraise will be questioned. The company’s salary structure and budget will be put at stake.

Employees: We hope to get a counteroffer, but we’ll most likely leave sooner or later.

73.7% of employees hoped they would be given a counteroffer after they tender their resignation. However, majority of employees (75%) look for other jobs within 18 months of accepting a counteroffer. For experts on the subject, this is nothing new. A year before the survey was conducted, a similar study done by the Wall Street Journal revealed that, among the professionals who had accepted a counteroffer, only 7% stayed with their companies. 93% looked for other opportunities and left within 18 months.

There could be a lot of reasons why post-counteroffer departures can’t be helped, but here’s what appears to be the most obvious: Majority (58.1%) of those who had accepted a counteroffer felt that their employers did not, either partially or entirely, fulfill their promises.

Giving counteroffers remains one of the most controversial topics in HR and talent management. Some believe in it. Some choose not to. Each side has its own arguments and proposed ways of retaining employees.

Many of those who give counteroffers out of practice believe that, sometimes, it’s appropriate and wiser to negotiate and hold onto a deserving employee. In doing so, one should (1) know whether the counteroffer will address that employee’s real problem (which is not always money) and (2) fully understand how the decision would affect the rest of the team. The art of negotiating lies in respecting a resigning employee’s decision, as well as in having a sincere, selfless, and well thought-out pitch.

Others, however, believe that prevention is better than cure. Why wait for your best people to resign before making them feel valued? Companies that ask this question ensure that they have regular performance reviews and appraisals in place. From time to time, they conduct employee engagement surveys and promptly address the issues that they uncover. Being proactive is an art, too. It’s the attitude to have when you can’t afford to fix a glass that’s already broken.

What do you think of counteroffers? Does your company require you to pitch them? Comment and begin a conversation below!


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